Euro festivals go pop!

Recession and weak currencies are threatening the continent's summer parties

The musician Neil Young will tonight entertain thousands of fans at the Isle of Wight festival before packing up his guitar and heading off to a sold-out Glastonbury, where he will headline along with Bruce Springsteen and a reformed Blur in a fortnight's time.

Despite the uncertainties of our summer weather, the credit crunch, and, in many cases, the same acts doing the rounds, Britain's music festival season is in full swing and rude health. Along with Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight, there will be T in the Park, Womad, V, Reading, Latitude and Bestival to name just a few of more than 100 planned between now and the end of September.

But across Europe it's a different story. In what was once a burgeoning market, particularly in eastern Europe, long starved of Western music during the Cold War, the festival circuit faces crisis. From Denmark's giant Roskilde – Europe's second biggest festival after Glastonbury – to Romania's B'esfest and Hungary's Sziget – promoters are struggling to sell tickets, despite such normally guaranteed draws as Coldplay, Oasis, Fat Boy Slim, the Prodigy and Kanye West.

The problem is the new global economics which makes a festival in eastern Europe too expensive for the people who live in those countries feeling the brunt of the recession – and costs are going up. As local currencies weaken, the fees of mainly Western performers become more difficult to meet; and promoters can no longer rely on Western visitors, for whom the ticket price is cheap.

"As we raise prices to catch up with festivals in western Europe, the Hungarian audience slowly melts," said Gabor Takacs, financial director of Sziget. Sziget, which means "island" and takes place on an island in the Danube river, has in recent years drawn French, German, Dutch and British visitors because it is affordable relative to their home events, he said.

But Western tourists are not travelling so much nowadays. Hungary's foreign visits are down by a fifth so far in 2009, and the tourism board expects a 5 per cent drop for the season. A six-day pass costs €150 euros (£127) – more affordable to a German than to a Hungarian, who earns an average of €475 a month in a country with 10 per cent unemployment.

"That [price] is obscene," said Dorina Keresztes, a 22-year-old student from Budapest. "The ticket price is only the beginning. You have to eat, drink, smoke. Lounging in a park drinking wine with friends is, you know, free."

However, the cost of staging a festival also rises if, like Hungary, your currency has weakened sharply. Mr Takacs said foreign headliners' fees – his biggest expense – grew by about 20 per cent this year.

In Bucharest, the B'esfest festival was scheduled to break even this year – a plan organisers have now revised. Profitability is now not expected before 2011. "This is only our third year," said spokesman Guido Janssens. "We wanted to raise prices a bit, but most of our audience is from Romania, so in this economy, we would have scared them off. Even now, we probably will not sell out."

Roskilde, Europe's largest festival by visitor days, is feeling the nordic chill, a spokesman, Esben Danielsen, said. "Sales in Denmark are going very well," he said. "But a third of our audience comes from other parts of northern Europe. These days in Iceland, which nearly went bankrupt, or in Sweden, where the krona weakened a lot, we don't do so well."

"People used to go to two, three or four a year," added Mikolaj Ziolkowski, a festival organiser in Poland. "Now they might choose just the biggest one with the best line-up."

To add to the woe, festivals are also losing sponsors, who could once be relied on to pump in cash in order to target a young audience. A mature festival typically receives less than 10 per cent of its budget from sponsors, relying instead on ticket sales and concessions. Sponsors put up nearer a quarter of the budget of many eastern European festivals, however.

Sziget has seen some corporate sponsors including Nokia and Magyar Telekom pull out.

But there is some good news. Among sponsors who are sticking with the festival market, brewers in general are keen: with the world's top four beer makers headquartered in Europe, the festival landscape is a patchwork of labels.

"It's a natural fit," said Keld Strudahl, the global sponsorship director of Carlsberg, whose brands back festivals from Glastonbury in Britain to Exit in Serbia. "A festival is the natural environment for drinking beer."

And weaker local currencies do have the benefit of translating into cheaper beer prices. "Last year, a pint of beer cost €2," Mr Takacs said. "This year, it will be €1.50."

Europe's summer festivals

Roskilde Roskilde, Denmark, 2-5 July

Tickets: £210 for camping, day tickets only for Sunday at gates.

Headliners: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Coldplay, Kanye West, Oasis. Nobel Peace Prize-winner Dr Muhammad Yunus will also speak.

Size: 175 bands; capacity 75,000.

Good to know: All profit to victims of climate change in south Asia.

Sziget Budapest, Hungary, 10-17 August

Tickets: £158 for camping, no one-day tickets available.

Headliners: Manic Street Preachers, Faith No More, Lily Allen.

Size: More than 200 international acts; capacity 80,000.

Good to know: Beer just £1.32 a pint.

Rock Werchter Werchter, Belgium, 2-5 July

Tickets: Only one-day tickets are left, priced from £66.

Headliners: The Prodigy, Oasis, Coldplay, the Killers.

Size: 60 acts; capacity 80,000.

Good to know: Public transport to festival is free.

Exit Novi Sad, Serbia, 9-12 July

Tickets: £86 for four days plus camping, one-day tickets at gates.

Headliners: Arctic Monkeys, Korn, the Prodigy, Moby.

Size: 100 acts; capacity 47,000.

Good to know: Began in 2000 as act of rebellion against Milosevic.

Pohoda Trencin, Slovakia, 16-18 July

Tickets: Three-day tickets cost £52, one-day tickets start at £43.

Headliners: Basement Jaxx, Razorlight, Travis, Klaxons.

Size: More than 160 acts; capacity 27,000.

Good to know: Waltz lessons available so everyone can dance when orchestras play their "set".

B'esfest Bucharest, Romania,

1-5 July

Tickets: Three-day tickets from £55, one-day tickets from £30.

Headliners: Santana, the Killers, Moby, Motorhead.

Size: 30-plus acts; capacity 30,000.

Good to know: No camping, but special hotel rates.

Hannah McCarthy

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss